Although we live in one of the most peaceful times in human history, we are likely the most engaged generation in the politics of our world. Student responses to the war in Ukraine and in Israel and Gaza prove just that. However, what I find disheartening is that students often only mobilize around whatever is currently most shocking and highlighted in the news. Seldom do I see people talking about the quieter issues. Now, this isn’t a slight upon college students. We are all exceptionally busy with exams, papers, extracurricular activities and the like, but I would like to encourage students to take an interest in the events that are unfortunately placed far behind the front page.
This year, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turns 75 — a major milestone and an opportunity for the world to reflect on the distance we have come since the second World War. The imperial system is all but gone and independent nation-states, for the most part, are the norm. In Europe, states are now more united than at any other time in modern history. NATO has played an instrumental role in that unification by integrating the economic, political and military capabilities of both Western and Eastern Europe. Even historically neutral states have sought expanded integration in Europe, with Finland and Sweden seeking or having sought accession into NATO.
Dartmouth should seize on this opportunity to a greater extent. Although certainly a busy year with ongoing primaries and elections, I feel that it would be important to use NATO’s 75th anniversary as a means to discuss and debate the future role of the United States in global affairs, as well as the role of the Western world in global affairs more broadly. I am encouraged by the establishment of the Dartmouth Dialogues project and by, of course, student groups, such as the Dartmouth Political Union, for hosting events that touch on global affairs. There is certainly great potential for well-reasoned discussions. However, there is more that can be done in the way of events to cultivate students’ understanding of the importance and history of the NATO coalition.
NATO is only one of the subjects Dartmouth students need to better understand in order to be strong global citizens; indeed, our knowledge in global affairs must go beyond Europe and North America. With the outbreak of war in the Middle East, escalating tensions in East Asia and a growing number of coups in Africa, it will become more important that Dartmouth students understand their role and their country’s role in the future development of a stable and balanced world. Institutes and centers at Dartmouth, such as the Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, have the capability to lead on some form of dedicated global affairs series. Much like the DPU’s Democracy Summit of 2023-24, discussions and key speaker events could be held to provide an accessible and engaging means of learning more about global geopolitics.
But don’t forget to start with the basics. Read news from not just the United States, but from across the globe. Seek out knowledge on regions that tend to be more obscure to North Americans or in areas that you personally know very little about. It is always better to learn about a global event with a cool head, and that may not be possible right after a shocking disaster that makes headlines worldwide. This also allows us to take the time to craft thoughtful opinions that may in other circumstances be less developed simply as a result of the heat of the moment. Becoming an involved global citizen — and one at a young age — is a goal we should all aspire to.
Luke Montalbano ’27 is President for British Columbia of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association - NATO Canada. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.